Beckie listens to Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

Why did you read this book? I watched the Netflix show and thought it was great. I was interested to see how different the book was, and whether any of the dramatic plot points actually happened.

Has Jeremy read it? No.

42-word review: WASP goes to jail for a year, writes about her experience and how much worse it would be if she were less privileged. Less dramatic than the Netflix version, it’s an unsensationalised and interesting depiction of the failures of the prison system.

Overall rating:  3 shower shoes (out of 5)

Jeremy reads Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Why did you read this book? We recently read Eleanor & Park by the same author.

Has Beckie read it? Yes, before we started these book reviews. She gave it 5 stars on Goodreads.

42 word review: Harry-Potter-style fanfic author’s freshman year at college. Her identical twin and former co-author wants to be wild YOLO college girl, while protagonist retreats into her fantasy world. Protagonist gets perhaps-too-good-to-read-true boyfriend, and after much angst, mushy bits ensue.

Selected quotes:

  • “You’re a sad little hermit, and it creeps me out. So get dressed.
    We’re going bowling.” Cath laughed. “Bowling?”
    “Oh, right,” Reagan said. “Like bowling is more pathetic than everything else you do.”
  • “How can the fact that your identical twin sister is super hot be offensive to you?”
    “Because,” Cath said, “It makes me feel like the Ugly One.”
    “You’re not the ugly one.” Levi grinned. “You’re just the Clark Kent.”

Rating: 4 of 5 dorm-room makeout sessions

Special extra on Rainbow Rowell in general: Continue reading

Beckie reads The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

Why did you read this book? I enjoyed Elizabeth Gilbert’s last novel, Stern Men (pre-Eat, Pray, Love), so I was glad to see she’d written another novel.

Has Jeremy read it? No.

42-word review: This dense saga follows Alma through the 19th century as she studies mosses, suffers heartbreak and travels the world. The supporting characters are less well drawn, and there are many subplots, but there’s a lot to like in her character and adventures.

Overall rating:  4 mosses (out of 5)


Jeremy listens to and reads Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Why did you read this book? It’s made a number of year-end lists, and Beckie liked it when she listened to it as an audiobook. She was up for reading it again as a car book on our trip around Melbourne.

Has Beckie read it? Yes–twice in fact–but no review as yet.

42 word review: Super-sweet first-love story about outcast girl in awful family situation and boy stuck next to her on school bus. How they first get together is incredibly cute, and horrible step-dad is well-done. Very good, ultimately maybe a bit too twee for full marks.

Overall rating: 4 of 5 mix-tapes. (No special points for being a great road-trip book, but was a great road-trip book.)

Notable moments:

  • Park glanced over his shoulder. “Can’t you just like a girl who likes you back?”
    “None of them like me back,” Cal said. “I may as well like the one I really want.”
  • She couldn’t believe she’d said that. Talk about uncool. Like the opposite of cool. Like, if you looked up cool in the dictionary, there’d be a photo of some cool person there saying, What the eff is wrong with you, Eleanor?

Beckie reads The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani

Why did you read this book? I read good reviews of it a while ago.

Has Jeremy read it? No.

42-word review: 15-year-old Thea gets sent to riding camp after a scandal. I got caught up in the rich depiction of Thea’s inner life and the world of the 1930s riding school. Thea’s not always a sympathetic character, but I appreciated her survival instincts.

Overall rating:  4 horseshoe pendants (out of 5)


Beckie listens to Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

Why did you read this book? Another hasty audiobook choice.

Has Jeremy read it? No.

42-word review: Ugh. This was similar to The Anatomist’s Apprentice, but worse. It began with an hour-and-a-half synopsis of Pride and Prejudice and ended with another rehash from Darcy’s viewpoint. The remainder was largely plodding “as-you-know”-type exposition, plus ridiculous tie-ins to other Austen works.

Overall rating:  1 gentleman (out of 5)


Beckie reads The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay

Why did you read this book? I remembered enjoying it as a kid, and I thought Jeremy might enjoy the wacky Australian-ness.

Has Jeremy read it? Yes.

42-word review: A swagman, a koala and a penguin alternately try to protect and rescue their unending, flavour-changing magic pudding. I remembered more wacky hijinks and fewer songs. It still had some amusing parts, but I was glad it was quite a short book.

Overall rating:  3 puddin’ thieves (out of 5)

Jeremy reads The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Why did you read this book? As noted, a goal for 2014 is to read 24 books related to personal growth. I tend to be averse to these books because they look hokey when I see them on the shelf, and yet I rarely regret reading them afterward. Anyway, one of the department stores here has a whole “goals stationery” section that got me thinking about all this, and they had this book also sitting on the shelf as a suggested impulse buy. (What I actually did was pull out my iPad and buy the book for my Kindle, but still the store had the right idea marketing-wise.)

Has Beckie read it? Yes, long time ago.

42 word review: Useful on the whole. Good writing; insightful about their experiences, accompanied by many asides to research and quotes. Sometimes gets bogged down by excessive personal narrative and repasted blog comments. Also has such a privleged life already, can be hard to relate.

A sampling quotes I found useful:

  • Samuel Johnson, who had an opinion about everything, did remark, “No money is better spent that what is laid out for domestic satisfaction.”
  • “I felt particularly oppressed by aspirational clutter—things that I owned but only aspired to use: the glue gun I never mastered, mysteriously specific silver serving pieces untouched since our wedding, my beige pumps with superhigh heels.”
  • My Eighth Commandment is “Identify the problem.” I’d realized that often I put up with a problem for years because I never examined the nature of the problem and how it might be solved. It turns out that stating a problem clearly often suggests its solution.
  • “[F]or both men and women…the most reliable predictor of not being lonely is the amount of contact with women. Time spent with men doesn’t make a difference.” [Note: the book has no references, but I would love to look up this study.]
  • “However, if you want to know how people would like to be treated, it’s more helpful to look at how they themselves act than what they say.”

Overall rating: 4 yearlong stunts (out of 5)

Jeremy is read The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay

Why did you read this book? It was a childhood favorite of Beckie’s that she gave me for Xmas because of all its Aussie awesomeness. She read it to me while we drove north for an overnight trip.

Has Beckie read it? Apparently many times as a girl, and once recently out loud in our car.

42 word review: Kids’ book, rhyming dialogue. Three swagmen journey about with their magic pudding, which replenishes itself, changes flavors, talks, runs, sprouts arms. Coveted by pudding thieves who craftily steal it several times, but swagmen get it back by either outsmarting thieves or outright violence.

Overall rating: 3 sneaky possums (out of 5)

Jeremy reads So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport

[Note: non-fiction book. Book #1 toward fulfilling 2014 resolution to try to read 24 books related to personal development.]

Why did you read this book? I think I saw the title somewhere and liked it.

Has Beckie read it? No.

Example useful quotes:

42 word review: Attacks idea that the way to job you love is to first figure out your passion. Focuses instead on how long-term and strategic acquisition of valued skills allows people to get cool jobs. Target audience much younger than me.

  • “[Ira] Glass emphasizes that it takes time to get good at anything, recounting the many years it took him to master radio to the point where he had interesting options. ‘The key thing is to force yourself through the work, force the skills to come; that’s the hardest phase,’ he says.”
  • “The easiest thing in the world to do is to get up in the morning and spend the day answering e-mail… But this is not a very strategic use of time.”
  • “Enthusiasm alone is not rare and valuable and is therefore not worth much in terms of career capital.”

Overall rating: 3 colored parachutes (out of 5)